Ryanair's Michael O'Leary says ATC meltdown made worse by WFH
Air traffic control meltdown was made worse by computer engineers working from home, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary says
- Michael O’Leary told MPs the systems failure led to 2,000 flight cancellations
- More than 300,000 travellers had their flights cancelled or delayed
The Air Traffic Control meltdown in August was exacerbated by computer engineers working from home, the boss of Ryanair has claimed.
Michael O’Leary told MPs the systems failure on the Summer Bank Holiday led to 2,000 flight cancellations and delays for another 4,000.
More than 300,000 travellers in the UK, across Europe and beyond had their flights cancelled or delayed leaving them without accommodation, food or a way home.
In a furious attack on National Air Traffic Services, Mr O’Leary claimed the situation was made worse because some computer system engineers required to step in during a crisis were sat at home.
The Air Traffic Control meltdown in August was exacerbated by computer engineers working from home, the boss of Ryanair has claimed. Above: Passengers stranded at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam in August
Speaking to the Transport Select Committee, he said: ‘When they went looking for their engineers, they were working remotely in order to save travel time.
READ MORE: Air traffic control boss says ‘it wasn’t an entire system failure’ – as passengers sleeping on airport floors face a 10-day wait to get home and his pay doubles to £1.3m
‘Engineers were sitting at home watching morning TV instead of being where they are supposed to be.’
Bosses at NATS confirmed they did turn to engineers working remotely. But they insisted there was ‘no truth’ in the assertion that this made the situation worse.
It has been estimated that airlines face a £100million bill for helping stranded customers. This will be passed on to travellers through higher fares.
Ryanair’s costs have been put at £15million and Mr O’Leary ‘s said NATS should be responsible for covering this bill.
He described the management at NATS as ‘numpties’, saying they were at fault for the ‘collapse’ of the system and had failed to give airlines proper warning.
At the same time, he condemned the chief executive of NATS, Martin Rolfe, who had his pay doubled this year to a staggering £1.3million, saying he should be stripped of bonuses and sacked.
He told the committee: ‘We wrote to Martin Rolfe, the vastly overpaid and incompetent chief executive of UK Nats, asking for reimbursement of our £15 million in right to care expenses, and we get a reply saying ‘it’s not in our remit’.
Michael O’Leary told MPs the systems failure on the Summer Bank Holiday led to 2,000 flight cancellations and delays for another 4,000
‘You don’t need a remit to do the right thing.’
He added: ‘I don’t believe he should continue as chief executive of NATS; he should resign or be dismissed. Then we might get someone in there competent to run the system to avoid a repeat of these shambles.’
The failure of the system was caused by a software glitch linked to the flight plan of a single long-haul flight passing through British airspace.
The system and its back-up effectively shut down because it could not cope with the fact that two so-called way points along the flight’s route had duplicate identification references.
Passengers stranded overnight at Gatwick Airport because of NATS failure are seen sleeping on the seats in August
Mr Rolfe said that on the day, it was tackled by on-site computer engineers, a second group of on-call engineers, who were working remotely, plus experts at the software company who built the software in Austria.
He rejected the criticism from Ryanair, saying: ‘We are a very serious organisation with safety at the heart of the culture.
‘We have the right number of air traffic controllers, the right number of engineers on site. In addition, we do have the ability – as you would expect any modern company – to be able to have people dial in remotely to help assist when things fail.
‘I would probably argue that because we were able to access people more quickly, including those people overseas… we were able to get them working on the problem within hours.’
He added that ‘there was no truth’ in Mr O’Leary’s assertions that a shortage of computer engineers in its offices exacerbated the crisis.
On the issue of reimbursing airlines for their costs, Mr Rolfe said: ‘I absolutely understand the frustration of the airlines in the context of the expenses they have to incur.’
He said the issue ‘goes back to effectively the way NATS is constructed’.
O’Leary condemned the chief executive of NATS, Martin Rolfe (above), who had his pay doubled this year to a staggering £1.3million, saying he should be stripped of bonuses and sacked
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